Archive for the ‘ Training ’ Category

THICK AS PIG SHIT

Sunday, August 7th, 2022

A training teammate of mine, Pru Chapman, swam for New Zealand in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. She swam three events, 100m back, 200m IM and 4 x 100m medley relay. By today’s standards her times were pretty slow – 1.15 for the 100m back and 2.42 for the 200m IM. Pru also taught me the expression, “as thick as pig shit”. I have no doubt that is exactly what she would say about the abuse being written on the Kiwi Swimming Facebook page.  

The stuff written there is not true, it is ignorant, and it is as thick as pig shit. I have no idea how some self-appointed “experts” reach their conclusions. Are they stupid? Perhaps they just don’t know? Perhaps their intention is to be deliberately provocative? Whatever the reason they certainly achieve an unbelievable level of mind-numbing ignorance. I’ve heard of black coffee being used for a similar purpose.

But a journalistic nadir was achieved this week in the Kiwi Swimming Facebook page. 700 words were devoted to tearing Gary Francis apart. I’d sue if Kiwi Swimming hurled half the abuse at me that it directed at Gary Francis. Mind you perhaps Gary doesn’t care. Abuse from that source is without merit.

Comparing Gary to the lunacy of Kiwi Swimming is an insult to Gary. But I’ll do it anyway.  For example:

Sentence one says – “This is the power struggle that some coaches are not happy with”. My guess is that should, more accurately, say, “this is a power struggle that my new bff, Gary Hollywood, is not happy with”. Hollywood needs to be careful. Being mates with New Zealand’s premiere  swimming dingbat is not the best way to progress Lewis Clareburt’s career.

Sentences two to four tell us the stunning news that Gary is a staff member of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ), sets qualifying standards and is a selector of national team swimmers and coaches. Well bugger me, I know Gary’s title, “Targeted Athlete and Coach Programme Manager”, may be a little complicated for the intellectually challenged. But really, being a staff member, selecting New Zealand teams and setting qualifying times seems to fit with his title and are within SNZ’s constitutional duties. Someone balanced and knowledgeable has to do these tasks. Gary has those qualities. Which is more than you can say for his critics.     

Then there is this libellous rubbish – “He was probably involved in backdating the selection criteria to April 2021 for world champs and Commonwealth Games just prior to Nationals 2022 in April cos he was worried that certain swimmers would not qualify at Nationals.” There is the clear inference that Gary cheated to get his favourites into the Games team. Not in a million miles is that true. Gary doesn’t cheat. He has bent the rules when there is a benefit to his country. Look how Lewis Clareburt’s career blossomed as a consequence of Gary’s decision to include him in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games team. I must have missed Kiwi Swimming’s bitch about that selection.    

Gary’s next cardinal sin, according to Kiwi Swimming, was to be “Team Manager for the world champs”. What’s so bad about that? Gary has been playing or coaching professional and amateur sport since he left high school. He was educated at the world leading sport’s university – Loughborough College and he is not affiliated to any one club (like Jan Cameron was). And from what I’ve heard from a swimmer I had associated with the world championship team it was managed to a standard you would expect from someone with Gary’s resume.

And then, in the greatest libel of all, Kiwi Swimming says this – “He also gave advice to swimmers at worlds like a coach would do, costing at least one swimmer a possible pb”. The inference behind that smear is disgusting. Why doesn’t the spineless author come out and say what he really thinks – Gary was such an intellectual incompetent he went around dishing out advice that hurt the national swim team. My swimmer also got advice from Gary. All of it good, sound stuff. Information that did contribute to Eyad’s string of PBs.   

And then another “bugger-me” moment. According to Kiwi Swimming, – “Any query on selection to the convenor of selectors gets relayed back to one man to answer – Gary Francis”. What is so wrong with that? Gary is on the committee. He is entitled to access the complaints they receive. He is the best placed person to guide the committee. Does Kiwi Swimming really want committee members kept in the dark? Probably, yes, is the answer. Kiwi Swimming has never liked the honesty that comes with fresh air.

We are getting close to the end of Kiwi Swimming’s assassination of Gary Francis. For weeks Kiwi Swimming has been obsessed – to a point where he could be in need of medical intervention – with the fact that in some list Lewis Clareburt was shown as swimming the 200m freestyle, not the 200m butterfly. I have no idea why the mistake occurred. It may have been a simple error – who knows? I’ve done the same thing a million times. It is not unusual. Remember when the NZOC forgot to enter Dame Valerie Adams in the Olympic shot put? In Clareburt’s case the problem was fixed. Clareburt swam and won the 200m fly. But moving on is not what Kiwi Swimming does. He has that cup of coffee and has to pour it over someone.

And as we near the end, Kiwi Swimming tells us – “Francis also decided that relays were not to be swam at Commonwealth Games which could have cost us a medal.” I have no idea why Gary decided to exclude relays. But he did and New Zealand ended up with its most successful Commonwealth Games swimming team in twenty years. Let me think – would I trust Gary to make that judgement or some lunatic with a computer screen in Wellington?   

And finally, finally Kiwi Swimming pleads for New Zealand to understand that “This kind of decision making, quite frankly, cannot continue. What’s Francis going to do next?” My hope is that Gary Francis, Steve Johns and Nick Tongue continue to do exactly what they have done in the past three years. And while they do that, could they improve swimming by suing the pants off Kiwi Swimming and drowning his computer in a hot pot of black coffee?

PS – Gary’s biggest sporting failure isn’t mentioned by Kiwi Swimming. He supports a team in English Football – someone like Sheffield Wednesday – who never win anything. Mind you I support Leeds United, and they are not much better.   

THE WEAKEST LINK

Saturday, August 6th, 2022

There are occasions when plans work out the way they should. Everything fits into place. Sadly, when that happens, too many others want a slice of the action. And many who took part and deserve credit want to overindulge and turn their success into a personal flag tour along Queen Street – a process that usually involves a demand for more money. Then there are the journalists, Facebook experts and commentators desperate to polish their resume – obsessed with rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous. Here is what one of these Sucker Fish had to say.

“Straight after the race David Clareburt messaged me from Birmingham ” 3rd….. bloody rapt for him.”  

And then this ingratiating rubbish.

“Lewis Clareburt needs 50m lane space. Every day. Swimming NZ should be funding this and ensuring Clareburt’s coach is sufficiently remunerated and supported. If they can’t do this, or can’t be bothered getting a paying sponsor, then simply make some staff redundant cos swimmers and coaches are more important than staff working for a national federation.

Swimming NZ has 24 staff. I`d say that they don’t even need 18 – at one point a few years ago they only had 13. Give the money paid to extra staff to Clareburt, his coach Gary Hollywood, and coaches like Lars Humer and Mitch Nairn to support performing swimmers like Erika Fairweather and Andrew Jeffcoat (and Eve Thomas and Cameron Gray for that matter).”

We have witnessed a fair bit of that “hogging the limelight” since New Zealand swimming did well in Birmingham. Lewis Clareburt’s coach, Gary Hollywood was first up, best dressed, as usual. I want a 50m lane permanently dedicated to Lewis’ training. I want a budget of several million dollars to prepare Lewis for the Paris Olympic Games.

New Zealand has to be careful with these demands for preferential treatment. For twenty-five years we lived through a period of privilege and largesse. It did not work then, and it won’t work now. Sure, there should be some benefits for the job all eight swimmers did in Birmingham. But remember these eight are not the final word in New Zealand’s swimming talent. There are others. Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has responsibility to them as well.

“Full many a gem of purest ray serene,

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:

Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

A few years ago, SNZ undertook to decentralise its high-performance programme. Responsibility for the country’s fastest swimmers would rest with coaches, clubs and regions. If Birmingham was the test, the SNZ policy decision was a good one. SNZ’s job is to plan, organise and administer the sport. We ran into trouble when Jan Cameron decided SNZ should do Hollywood’s job.

And Hollywood needs to keep his nose out of SNZ’s business. We can do without Jan Cameron in reverse. Tongue, Johns and Francis are better at policy and administration than Hollywood. His job is to stand on the pool deck guiding his swimmers to swim faster. If he needs more pool space and more money, work it out with his club or region – not SNZ. If someone needs to talk to SNZ that’s the Chairman of the Wellington Region’s job – not Gary Hollywood. Hollywood’s efforts to set SNZ policy will take swimming back to a very dark place.

Of course, the critics are too stupid to understand the importance of maintaining a distinction between policy management and poolside coaching. In their rush to ingratiate themselves with the newly anointed, “Birmingham Eight” they will parrot Hollywood’s demands without a thought for the reactionary consequences. And so, the last ones to trust in a situation like this are Facebook experts. They are the weakest link.

A few years ago, someone in SNZ produced a memo that discussed the importance of the separation of powers. Tongue, Johns and Francis should restrict themselves to policy and administration. Just as important though – Hollywood and others must not interfere in areas that SNZ does better. Hollywood’s job is to coach. It would do the sport well if he focused on that task.

So be careful SNZ, do not be pushed about by Sport New Zealand and do not be pushed by, the enemy from within, coaches, with ideas above their station. Operational tasks are the responsibility of coaches. The decentralised policy SNZ chose three years ago is working better than any of us expected. Do not be distracted by coaches who have no idea how lucky they are or by Sport New Zealand’s obsession for power.

And finally, SNZ and Hollywood need to keep their feet on the ground. The Commonwealth Games’ results are good – a huge step forward. Those involved including SNZ can be truly proud of their progress.

BUT –

The Commonwealth Games are not the Olympics. In fact, of the top 10 Olympic medal winning nations only 2 (Australia and the UK) swim at the Commonwealth Games. The 8 top ten nations who do not swim at the Commonwealth Games have won 62% of all the Olympic swimming gold medals. Of the 57 nations that have won Olympic medals 11 (19%) swim at the Commonwealth Games. The sport has a big task ahead converting Commonwealth performances into Olympic success. Swimming will achieve this best by holding firm to the decentralised policy followed for three years – and not by pandering to the Raelene Castle mob or a coach with an inflated opinion of his or her own importance. It is inappropriate to celebrate an ascent of Everest when you have only reached base camp two.

KNOCKED THE BUGGER OFF

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

A few posts ago you may remember Swimwatch said this.

“But if “worked” means, made progress, then the answer is a very positive yes. Swimming has had a breath of fresh air. It is a better sport, run by better people. It is a happier and safer sport. It is a sport that relies less on the destructive influence of the Castle gang. Its results have a way to go, but they are on their way back. And it is a sport where its members, especially its coaches, can feel valued again. How long will it take for the reforms to work? My guess is at least five maybe six years. We have had two. So be patient we have three or four years to go. If the damage done took 20 years, SNZ will have done really well to repair that in five or six years. But the sport is on its way – big time.”

At the same time the reforms Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) made were subject to endless petty sniping by SNZ critics. According to these experts SNZ couldn’t run a piss-up in Speights’ Brewery. Shock and horror, they said, SNZ had two old tabs that didn’t work on their new website. The Short Course Nationals were only 15 days after the Commonwealth Games. According to this group of Facebook experts – idiots were running the asylum.

And at the Commonwealth Games we have seen SNZ strike back. By their actions and deeds SNZ is exposing the lie of the criticism of its armchair critics. The reforms are working.

So, what are the facts that lead to this conclusion?

·        Three gold medals and two bronze medals from two swimmers in Birmingham – compared to one bronze medal four years ago on the Gold Coast, a gold and silver medal from one swimmer eight years ago in Glasgow, and three silver medals and three bronze medals twelve years ago in Delhi.

·        Every swimmer made a semi-final and/or a final. There is strength and strength in depth.

·        At the time of writing, swimming’s medal result in Birmingham is better than badminton3×3 basketballbeach volleyballboxingcricketdivinggymnasticshockeyjudolawn bowlsnetballrugby sevenssquashtriathlonweightlifting and wrestling

·        But best of all from 49 swims the New Zealand team recorded 12 personal best times (24.5%). Six of the eight swimmers swam at least one personal best time. That is a sign of progress. It says as clear as a bell SNZ is on its way back. The old days, before Sport New Zealand, don’t look so shabby after all.     

·        The team of eight swimmers was coached by eight different club coaches – six spread over the length and breadth of New Zealand and two in Australia. New Zealand coaches can be trusted to deliver. It is also far healthier for the sport than that Cameron, Layton, Cotterill, “let’s do it all in Auckland” rubbish. Grass roots swimming across New Zealand has delivered in Birmingham. The benefit of that to the sport cannot be underestimated, especially in comparison to the elitist product being peddled by the Castle gang.       

SNZ will need to exercise extreme caution on one aspect of what is about to occur. Because swimming is so clearly on the path back, Sport New Zealand will want a slice of the credit. Sport New Zealand can smell success in sport like a great white shark detects the scent of blood.  Sport New Zealand will attempt to buy its way back into the sport. The bribe will be simple – more money.

Castle will say how well the sport has done, but imagine if New Zealand had an Australian, or and American or someone from the UK in Auckland coaching in a centralised pool of their own. Let’s call it Owen Glenn. Then Clareburt could train with Gray, Ouwehand could compete with Gasson. And SNZ would have a million more taxpayer dollars.

Wouldn’t SNZ like to be just like cycling? As though the death of Podmore could be brushed away by the clink of a few gold, silver and bronze trinkets. Like a good door-to-door salesman, Castle will attempt to sell her shoddy product.

For the love of God, SNZ please reject doing a deal with the devil. The Garden of Eden apple was less tainted than Sport New Zealand’s money. Never forget it was Castle’s money that dragged SNZ to its performance knees. Never forget the reforms that have begun CPR on the corpse Sport New Zealand left behind. When swimming needed help the most Sport New Zealand walked away. Without a care in the world Sport New Zealand left a dying corpse to rot. Do not reward them for their treachery. Do not make the Cameron, Layton, Cotterill mistake again – please. As SNZ is offered the Sport New Zealand cash honey trap remember this, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The eight swimmers, their coaches, their clubs, their regions and SNZ at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games have shown us the decentralised path we should follow. Making that same path better and more available to other swimmers should be our guide – not Sport New Zealand’s money or their loony idea of what constitutes good coaching for swimming. Do not be tempted by a modern-day Eve offering her apple of knowledge.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. Take Castle’s money. Grab every penny. Get as much as you can but give her nothing in return. Spend it on improving SNZ’s DECENTRALISED structure.

I’m no great scholar of religion but for SNZ right now a biblical verse does seem appropriate – “Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

SNZ found it in Birmingham. SNZ is on its way back, using a path that leads to life. And that is the way it should stay.  

To the NZ swim team – as Mohamed Ali said

“You done splendid”

WALK AND CHEW GUM

Wednesday, July 27th, 2022

Christopher Luxon, who leads the New Zealand National Party and wants to be Prime Minister, is turning into a liability for them at 100mph. The National Party sure can pick them. Simon Bridges was the best, until he decided playing a lead role in a Broadway comedy was not for him. National then experimented with Todd Muller and Judith Collins.

Some of their routines were brilliant. Remember the classic line from Muller’s first speech, “When I first joined the Labour Party.” The wardrobe department then designed his office. The central location of his MAGA Trump cap was perfect. Only a Nazi flag could have been more inappropriate.

And as for Crusher Collins on her knees praying in an east Auckland church. My guess is God found creating heaven and earth easier that that conversation.

“And God, if you don’t get me to beat that Jacinda women, things will not go well for you when we meet at the Pearly Gates.”

Then National settled on Luxon. Praying from the “Upper Room” sect, God obviously got Luxon’s request ahead of Crusher Collins.

Luxon – just the guy National needed. High powered executive from Air New Zealand. Family holidays in Hawaii. Seven houses. A company car and driver to get him 200m from home to the office. All the things National looks for in a leader.

Fortunately, for New Zealand Luxon and National have not been able to avoid their comedy roots.

First, Luxon admitted he had been part of the mob attending Ted Cruz rallies in the United States. I was disappointed the wardrobe department didn’t find him a Confederate Flag. I wonder if Luxon cheered – or perhaps did a mini haka – when Cruz revealed he defended the Texas decision to renege on a legal settlement to provide funding for the healthcare of poor children. The Supreme Court unanimously voted against Cruz, citing the precedent of “Come on, it’s Ted Cruz.” New Zealand is not far away from, “Come on, it’s Chris Luxon.”

Serious subjects like the right to abortion are not normally the subject of comedy. That is until Luxon gets hold of the topic by announcing that  abortion is “tantamount to murder” and follows it up with a claim that he does not want to comment on women who choose to get an abortion. That was ironic comedy at its best, “She committed murder but I’m not going to say whether she is a murderer” – a line designed to attract every female voter in the country.   

And then there is the holiday to Hawaii. Remember when Luxon’s poster boy, Ted Cruz, went to Cancun on holiday in the middle of serious Texas storms. Cruz tried to sneak out and back into the United States, blaming his children for needing their dad.

Well, Luxon had to go one better. What about taking the family’s annual $20,000 holiday to Hawaii when your country is drowning from record storms and, while you sip an ice-cold pineapple margarita and stretch out on Sunset Beach, post a Facebook clip telling New Zealand you are hard at work picking kiwi fruit in Te Puke? Wow, that sounds like a good idea. Lie to the country. They should all vote for you then.

In his own words he said, “Today I’m in Te Puke, the heart of kiwifruit country, and what a great morning we’ve had today.” My guess is the “great morning we’ve had today” is right.

Doesn’t Mrs. Luxon look stunning – well protected from the tropical sun in a brown 1930’s swimsuit with “Conversion Therapy” printed on the bum and a MAGA cap borrowed from Muller for five days.   

And, when Luxon was caught, “I went to Hawaii with my family, as I tend to do in July,” he said. “As I tend to do in July.” What an arrogant piece of work. He takes a holiday that costs more than many New Zealanders earn in a year, lies about it and tells us it is a normal July jaunt. What is next – the Aspen ski break, a London musical, or a week in Cancun with his mate from the United States – “as you tend to do”.

Act one of the Luxon comedy happened before he became a politician. Air New Zealand ran into trouble when it was revealed their workshops were repairing the turbines on Saudi Navy vessels. These were the same ships that were killing thousands of Yemeni children. Journalists asked Luxon to please explain. Was it right for his company to improve the killing ability of Saudi ships? Luxon’s reply was classic.

“Oh, I’m not sure whether I remember that.” He could well have trouble at the Pearly Gates for that reply

You mean the CEO who does not know about a multi-million-dollar Saudi military order. What a pack of lies. Or perhaps I’m wrong. Luxon may not have known. Perhaps the order was placed in July. He could have been in Hawaii – “as you tend to do”.

The parade of National comics is getting better all the time. By New Zealand’s 2023 election, who knows what Luxon will be doing. Sitting in a recently repaired Saudi tank, outside an abortion clinic, waving a “vote for Cruz” poster and eating kiwi fruit picked during his recent trip to Hawaii. You believe it. It might just happen.  

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF YOUR PEAK

Tuesday, July 26th, 2022

Three months ago, I undertook to never mention the Facebook page Kiwi Swimming again. And now I am going to break that promise. Because sometimes the terrible rubbish people write has the potential to cause actual harm – to make the sport unsafe. This is one of those occasions. Sixteen hours ago, Kiwi Swimming published an article ripping into Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) for scheduling the New Zealand Short Course Championships 15 days after the end of the Commonwealth Games. Swimmers will not be able to peak for the Nationals, the website screams. It is, the website says, a “most inconvenient time”. The tirade ends with a desperate, “what a mess this all is”.

Now I have no interest in what the author of Kiwi Swimming thinks or knows about swimming or sport in general. But what I do care about is athletes and their parents being misled by this trash. And so, let me give you some examples of runners and swimmers who have competed again a few days after peaking for a major event. It is a concept Kiwi Swimming has never heard of, called taking advantage of your peak.

·        Peter Snell did a tour of the UK to race immediately after the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. If I remember correctly his 800m victory at White City was the world’s fastest time that year.   

·        Peter Snell came back from winning the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games and ran a mile race shortly after arriving home against the second and third Tokyo runners, Odložil and Davies. Snell won the race in a new world record.

·        John Walker left Montreal immediately after his 1976 Olympic 1500m win and beginning 5 days later ran a fast race in Philadelphia, followed by Stockholm, West Berlin, Gateshead, Cologne and London, before coming back to New Zealand. Rod Dixon followed the same schedule.

·        My wife Alison ran the final of the 1978 Commonwealth Games 1500m and a week later in London ran a PB 3000m in the British Women’s Championships.

·        My daughter Jane won the 2001 NZ Open SC Championship in Rotorua. Two weeks later she set a NZ Open SC 200m breaststroke record in Waipukurau and a week later swam in the World Cup finals in Melbourne.

·        After the 2012 London Olympic Games Michael Phelps raced again 21 days later in the United States. He swam 1.48.41 for the LCM 200m freestyle and 1.55.32 for the LCM 200m fly.  

·        Dozens of Commonwealth athletes have been competing this week in the 2022 World Track and Field Championships – including Muir (3rd 1500m), Wightman (1st 1500m), Hodgkinson (2nd 800m) and Walsh (4th shot put). They are all on an airplane right now heading to the UK to back-up at the Commonwealth Games in about 15 days’ time.

All those examples are called taking advantage of your peak. So, you can see the rubbish Kiwi Swimming is feeding swimmers and their parents. I guess we can make a decision – believe the 62 years’ experience of Snell, Walker, Alison, Jane, Phelps and Walsh or the tripe dished out by the author of a website who clearly knows nothing about the product.

You wouldn’t call a roading worker to put out a house fire. So it might be better not to read too much into Kiwi Swimming’s racing opinions.

Oh, and to the Commonwealth swimmers entered in the 2022 SC National Championships, swim fast. You should go well. You see, it’s called taking advantage of your peak.

And finally, well done SNZ and Gary Francis for perfectly scheduling the SC Nationals and World Championship trials an ideal 15 days after the Commonwealth Games. Clearly SNZ and Francis know what works which is a country mile more than can be said about at least one of their critics.